Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Snapshots! Post-Tsunami, Banda Aceh Indonesia

Exactly one year after the Tsunami that devastated Indonesia, we went with Habitat for Humanity to build houses in Meulaboh Village.

Father, You are King over the flood.

A personal reflection of the trip to Banda Aceh with Habitat for Humanity, 04-10 December 2005.

This trip is a really meaningful one for me, because it took so much (effort and prayers) to get there. Eventful from the start, the poignant memories etch deeply on my soul. Felt a myriad of emotions, ranging from desperation to jubilation. The sky seems so huge and me, so small when I look up and see emptiness of the lands, stretching far beyond the horizon.

The tsunami (We were at Tibang Village) destructed all, even trees, save for a few lone coconut trees and remnants of foundations left standing. Small crabs made their dwelling amongst the sands we used for shovelling and creating the base of what was to be a house. Nearby us, ducks swam happily, kampung chickens chased each other, the ocassional sounds of goats bleating and gunshots from the military schools nearby were commonplace in the villages. Only the piles of debris left, even one year later - too much to clear, just left alongside the roads and the destruction of houses. We walked on paths that were made of broken bricks and cement, probably from houses that were destroyed. All around lay fragments of what used to be homes - columns, bricks, bars, even toilet facilities that seemed to be peeking out from a garden overrun with flowers; only later we realised that there used to be a house there.

The villagers seemed to accept their 'fate', their lives with relative ease; but the psychological effects still run deep for the people who not only have lost homes, but livelihoods and families. Our guide, Aan(Volunteer Manager for Habitat), told us that Habitat's mission is not only to rebuild homes but to give a sense of hope for the people. For some, looking forward to a home is all they have left for. Some try to numb the pain with marijuana or other drugs, even though the strict syriah laws prohibit intoxication of any sort.

Some village children came to our resting tent to play with us during the breaks. Our hearts welled up with sympathy when we gently asked the village children what happened last year when the tsunami struck. One was missing a mother, others lost parents and siblings. But being young and probably not fully understanding the meaning of death, they just answered guilelessly without any sorrow, while we choked and tried not to appear too emotional. These children who survived were bundled up into a truck and carried further away, uphill.

We saw a small ship, carried by the raging waters inland and 'landed' on top of a bungalow house. I wondered what happened to the owners, perhaps, they were gone, too. This house became a sightseeing opportunity with many people, tourists, taking photos in front of it. Photos cannot do it justice because you just have to go there and see it for yourself, a ship on top of a house, in the middle of a village inland, many km away from the shore. Another ship which 'landed' inland became a generator building - too huge to remove, it will become a permanent landscape for these simple people whose lives will never be the same again.

Someone scribbled a message on the walls of the house with the small ship, stating "Tsunami ada mesed dari Tuhan" - They believe that this is the wrath of God.

For what and for whom, perhaps no one can explain.

This was our only coffee shop, known as 'warong', actually a small hut with hot water and packets of drinks.

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